Thursday, May 11, 2023

Cobra Trooper Week Part III - Hat Trick!

Finally rounding out the Cobra fireteam that I displayed about a week and a half ago, here's a tough guy from north of the border...

Hat Trick

Cobra Trooper 

Carter Fitzpatrick
Code Name:  Hat Trick
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialties:  Sabotage, Self-Defense Instructor
Birthplace:  Blainville, Quebec, Canada

Class:  Soldier 1
Background:  Elite Athlete (Ice Hockey)
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
14(+2)    10(--)     14(+2)     8(-1)       8(-1)      9(-1)
HP 10 (1d10+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +4 melee, +2 ranged
Skills:  Athletics, Intimidation, Demolitions, Insight
Tools:  Weights, Hockey Equipment, Land Vehicles
Languages: English, French
Saves:  Strength, Constitution
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Legend in This Town:  Has achieved some fame as an athlete and can sometimes leverage this to his advantage.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Hat Trick has always loved one thing more than anything else in the world: fighting.  Hockey is second.  Beer is third.  He's pretty good at all of them.

On the ice, Hat Trick consistently showed enough skill to garner the attention of pro scouts and was signed to a minor league contract.  Most of his time as a professional, however, was spent as an enforcer, and his fists got a lot more use than his stick.

While playing for a team in Manitoba, Hat Trick had an exceptionally good offensive performance one night, scoring three goals in a road game vs. the Springfield Blades.  Just behind the team's bench, three Dreadnoks happened to be in attendance, cursing his every move on the ice as it worked against the big money they had bet on the Blades.

When they confronted him after the game, Hat Trick made short work of all three of them.  A Cobra recruiter accompanying them was both entertained and impressed enough to convince Hat Trick to join his team for a chance at a real payday.  So far, he has worked to train other Cobra recruits in his scrapping style.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Cobra Trooper Week Part II - Apostle!

Part of my first Cobra fireteam with Blast Beat, Apostle is an original '83/'84 swivel-arm Cobra soldier that ended up in my collection as a kid.  I word it this way because I really don't remember getting it...I had an original '82 straight-arm version, and then somehow over the course of my G.I. Joe playing career, this guy ended up among the rest of my figures.  Maybe it was given to me?  A friend's figure that got mixed up with mine, and then was never requested back because it's such a minor character?  Maybe I traded for it?  A sign of my age, I suppose...I truly don't recall.  But I could probably be convinced that I remember any of those scenarios.

As a true old-school trooper, this seemed like a great figure to take on the Acolyte background from 5E.  As the only background put into the original 5E SRD (meant to serve as an example for others' work), I think it's also the only one that made it into the rules that Wizards of the Coast released this year under a Creative Commons license.  It just felt like a good match with an original figure.


Cobra Trooper 

Josiah Bell
Code Name:  Apostle
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialty:  Sabotage
Birthplace:  Scottsboro, Alabama
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Acolyte
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
11(--)    10(--)     16(+3)     11(--)     10(--)     17(+3)
HP 16 (2d10+6)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +2 melee, +2 ranged
Skills:  Insight, Religion, Animal Handling, Demolitions
Tools:  Land Vehicles
Languages: English, Spanish, Hebrew, Aramaic
Saves:  Strength, Constitution

Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms (expertise), heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Shelter of the Faithful:  May receive assistance from those who share his faith.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Specialty:  Two-Handed Small Arms

Apostle grew up attending a snake-handling church in the rural American South.  Upon being introduced to the more esoteric teachings of Golobulus and the Cobra-La, he began to syncretize the two belief systems and ultimately found his way to Cobra as a religiously devoted recruit.

While not the most skilled of warriors, Apostle's belief that his work for Cobra is in service to a higher cause makes him a most formidable enemy.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

It's Cobra Trooper Week! Here's Blast Beat...

I guess it's a little lame to "start" Cobra Trooper Week on a Wednesday evening...but better late than never...?

Anyway, this guy's from the G.I. Joe Retro Collection Cobra Officer & Cobra Trooper 2-Pack.  I am pleased with the purchase, but I'm not the most discerning action figure fan.  If you're interested, I'd say check out some of the reviews out there, like THIS excellent one from the forums.

Blast Beat

Cobra Trooper 

Bjørn Thorsen
Code Name:  Blast Beat
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialties:  Sabotage, Heavy Weapons
Birthplace:  Strømmen, Norway
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Musician
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
12(+1)    18(+4)     10(--)     14(+2)     7(-2)     15(+2)
HP 11 (2d10)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +3 melee, +6 ranged
Skills:  Performance, Intimidation, Demolitions, History
Tools:  Drums, Bass Guitar, Land Vehicles
Languages: Norwegian, English
Saves:  Strength, Dexterity
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons (expertise), super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Always on Tour:  Can usually secure food and lodging in exchange for performing.  Sometimes recognized by fans who are willing to provide more assistance in his efforts.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower.

Specialty:  Heavy Weapons

Blast Beat spent his youth taking every opportunity he could to travel into Oslo to check out the music scene, being especially attracted to the most extreme metal acts he could find.  In high school, he began drumming with friends in the band Nuclear Funeral.  They were a death metal band.  Or maybe a black metal band.  They weren't really into labels.  Or Satan.  But they did love loud sounds, explosive rhythms, and controlled chaos.

While Nuclear Funeral never achieved much fame outside of the local metal scene, Blast Beat's skill behind the drumkit was unmatched by most other musicians.  One night after a show, he was approached by a Cobra recruiter who felt that there had to be a use for the exceptional dexterity, hand speed, rhythm, and muscle memory demonstrated by Blast Beat.  With the promise of a steady income and the chance to blow a lot of shit up, he was soon on the Cobra payroll.

Blast Beat still likes to drum (and play bass!) whenever he gets the chance and occasionally considers returning to the life of a musician.  His dream is to one day share a stage with Cold Slither, the Misfits, and the Misfits.


(I used the Metal Band Name Generator found HERE, btw, to decide on "Nuclear Funeral"...)

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Coming up: Cobra Trooper Week!

The momentum of attention on the internet is a really interesting phenomenon...all those little incidental details and quirks that cause one idea to fall by the wayside while another goes viral.  I've drifted in and out of Reddit participation over the past few years, and I see things all the time that just make me...wonder.  I'll dig a little deeper into a subreddit and find a great post that leaves me thinking, "Wait, why am I just the third person to upvote this?"  And then some stuff, for whatever reason, just takes off.

"Takes off" would be a bit of an overstatement for what I'm transitioning into talking about, but the sentiment applies here.  The G.I. Joe subreddit is one of the main ones I visit these days, and I've posted a couple of things there.  I recently started what is almost certainly one of the lowest-effort threads I've ever initiated on Reddit - some pictures of my Cobra Trooper action figures with their code names - and it probably got the biggest reaction of anything I've posted.  I mean, I had definitely noticed that the denizens of the sub (a very friendly place, btw!) often just like to see pictures of toys.  Which is understandable.  It's a sub about toys.  But still...I was surprised.  The most groundbreaking aspect of the post is that one of the guys is holding a hockey stick.  So...not groundbreaking.

Blast Beat, Apostle, and Hat Trick

At any rate, I certainly ain't complaining, and it's inspired me to try and make this upcoming week officially Cobra Trooper Week here at Monstrous Matters.  I need to get some character backstories and game stats down on digital paper, and this is a great chance to do it!

I hope you'll join me.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Looking for thoughts on abilities for a 5e combat leader!

For the next little stone in the wall that is my effort to put together a set of rules with which to play with my 3.75-inch toy soldiers, I'd really like to nail down a Commander class.  (Appropriate that I used a wall as a metaphor for one of my hobby endeavors?  Maybe...)  I did a little rundown of the classes I want to start with HERE...for reference, I'm looking for a Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, and Ninja.  Today, I shall speak of the Commander.  Also, as fair warning, I'm about to ramble...there's a TL;DR in italics below...

I think a Commander class is important for a few reasons.  First, I simply believe it's a fairly critical archetype in the genre, so that the roles of characters like Hawk, Duke, and Cobra Commander are covered.  I also think enough games have included a battlefield leader role that its utility and (ideally) fun are pretty well established.  I'm thinking specifically about classes from the D&D 3.5 Miniatures Handbook and the 5E-based modern ruleset Ultramodern5, both of which include a Marshal.

Finally, I really want to have a class that can be used to level up the leader of a warband over the course of a toygaming campaign, and adding to their leadership capabilities seems like an appropriate way to go about it.  The Miniatures Handbook, once again, had this slot filled by the Warlord class, which was a super-simple prestige class that really only applied to miniatures campaigns.  A level in Warlord, if memory serves, gives a character +1 to attack bonus, +1 to Commander rating (a value specific to the miniatures rules), and either +10 HP or +5 HP and an extra use of a spell.

I want the classes in this game to remain fairly simple anyway, so why not have a Commander class that does something similar, enabling quick-n-easy leveling in between battles, while also serving as one of the core classes?

One approach that seems to work is to give a battlefield leader the ability to impact combat simply by being among the troops.  The 3.5 Marshal has auras that grant bonuses to other troops, and the Ultramodern5 Marshal gets Command Presence abilities.  This is probably the way to go, although the direction I'm leaning is to give Commanders a small set of "commands" they can give with an action (or maybe bonus action), with a successful roll having the selected effect on the battlefield.  I'm thinking of things along the lines of Bardic Inspiration, but with a chance of failure, and possibly the ability to attempt one every round.

If these scale with a character's level in the Commander class, then advancement in power along with advancement in levels may take care of itself without even having to add abilities as the character progresses.  I suppose that might go against the intentions of "bounded accuracy" as it's built into 5E, but I really like the simplicity of it.  Players can know that all Commanders are able to try X, Y, or Z each round, and the magnitude of the effect is connected to level.  Nice and straightforward.

Oh!  And I do have plans to incorporate a sort of Commander rating into the activation mechanic of the game, so having that increase with Commander level, as it does with the Miniatures Handbook's Warlord, will also be a benefit for campaign play.

Okay.  So that's where my question for you comes in, my friends.  What are the key abilities that should be built into a Commander?  What is that X, Y, or Z that they can attempt each round?  A choice of bonuses to grant to those around them?  Handing out extra actions?  Extra HP?  Should they be able to choose different difficulty classes to have differing magnitudes of effect?  Should it just be simplified such that all abilities use the same target number?

Are you still reading?  Well...thank you!  For the rest of you, here's the...

TL;DR   I'm putting together a very simple Commander class for an action figure battling game based upon D&D 5E.  I'd like to give them (around) three different actions that they can attempt each round of combat, with successes granting boons to allies on the battlefield.  These abilities will scale with the Commander's level and should be simple and iconic enough that they can be easily remembered as the standard traits of a Commander.  I'm open to any and all suggestions as to what seems fun and fair!

Thanks for reading all this, or even skimming to this sentence...and please let me know if you have any thoughts!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

So, what are the G.I. Joe classes I'm looking for, exactly?

It's about time I put pen to paper in sketching out this game I have dancing around in my head, in which I get to play out scenarios with my 3.75-inch action figures.  G.I. Joe is a clear focal point for the first iteration of the rules, and I want to use D&D 5E as the mechanical skeleton.  So what classes do I need to include to make sure I have a complete enough base for the game?

Well, I have to start with the class that may just do the most work for me, the Soldier.  I outlined my take on it for this purpose in a post HERE, and my first crack at a character of the class is in a post HERE.

And then there are the drivers.  Part of the beauty of the 3.75-inch scale has always been the production of vehicles in scale, and the various operators of said vehicles are kind of a class in themselves.  Sometimes, of course, it may make sense to treat the drivers as soldiers with a specialty...


...but sometimes there are drivers who really have no need to be treated as soldiers...

Also from

And of course, at some point my Joe figures are going to have to cross over with M.A.S.K., CHiPs, the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, Dom Toretto and family, etc.  So...I think a Driver class is certainly in order.

What about medics?  Hmm.  It could be argued that some sort of specialist class could cover this and all sorts of other skill- and tool-based roles.  The healer, though, is sort of a tradition in these types of games, so I do like the idea of keeping it separate.  Maybe I could even take a route like the one explored in Ultramodern5, where medical skills are "game-ified" a bit by making some of them function kind of like spells.  Okay...Doc,'re Medics.

Oh yeah, and Scientists!  That's what I do, so I'm biased.  Maybe I'm the same class as Dr. Mindbender...?

This may be getting out of hand.  I'll ignore other sorts of specialists until it becomes vital, and that still leaves a couple that should probably be included.

The Miniatures Handbook is a D&D 3.5 supplement that I've always really enjoyed and which is a big inspiration on what I'm trying to do with this game.  The Marshal and super-simplified miniatures-campaign-only Warlord classes (plus the 4E Warlord) are worth looking at for inspiration on some sort of Commander class.

And of course, this is G.I. Joe.  So there have to be Ninja.  Or Ninjas.  Have never been sure which to write for that in plural form.

Yep, you guess it... from

Alright...that leaves me with Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, Ninja.  That's very doable.  Time to get cracking.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A file card for Gearhead...

I'm still planning to stat out Gearhead for gaming, but it's taking me a minute to settle on exactly how to handle driver types in the game.

You know what I can do, though?  Make a file card!

(The Filecard Creator can be accessed HERE and is a lot of fun.  Let me know if you know of alternatives, as I'd love to try them out.  FWIW, this one's really easy to use and was clearly made by someone - or multiple someones - who really enjoy(s) the property!)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

I had Bard and ChatGPT fill in the backstory for my kitbashed G.I. Joe character. This is what they gave me.

This past weekend, I took a little time to put together a "new" G.I. Joe character from pieces of some of my childhood figures.  A little work with a screwdriver and a bit of sloppy paint later, and I had this guy:

Naturally, I wanted to figure out the story behind this new Joe.  Something about the goggles and gloves...or maybe it has a little bit to do with the fact that his head (from Breaker) is the same mold that was used for Clutch...had me thinking he's a driver/mechanic type.

Then, I did what makes the most sense to do in April 2023 when you'd like a character backstory:  I asked a computer.

I started with Google's new chatbot Bard, with a simple request:

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

And Bard, true to its programming, delivered quickly (bolding by me, btw)...

Sure, here is a GI Joe character I came up with:

Code Name: Wheels

Real Name: Robert "Bob" Smith

Occupation: Driver and Mechanic

Nationality: American

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 190 lbs

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

Backstory: Bob Smith was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest. He was always fascinated by cars and trucks, and he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a mechanic. After high school, he went to trade school and became a certified mechanic. He then got a job at a local garage, where he worked for several years.

One day, Bob was approached by the GI Joe team. They were looking for a skilled mechanic to join their team, and they were impressed with Bob's skills and experience. Bob accepted the offer, and he has been a member of the GI Joe team ever since.

Bob is a valuable member of the GI Joe team. He is a skilled mechanic, and he is always willing to help out his fellow teammates. He is also a brave and courageous soldier, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

Bob's code name, "Wheels," is a reference to his love of cars and trucks. He is always seen driving around in one of the GI Joe team's vehicles, and he is always up for a race.

Bob is a great friend, a loyal teammate, and a skilled mechanic. He is a valuable asset to the GI Joe team, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

All right!  Wheels.  Not terrible.  Not terribly clever, but not terrible.  A solid first effort for a bot that may or may not have ever been tasked with creating a Joe.  I's a pretty straightforward origin story, so Bard probably hadn't put a lot of thought into it until that very moment.

Let's see how its more famous colleague ChatGPT fared...

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

Code Name: Gearhead

Profile: Gearhead is the ultimate driver and mechanic for the GI Joe team. His real name is Jack Riley and he hails from a small town in the Midwest. He's always been fascinated by cars and mechanics, tinkering with engines and machines from a young age.

After completing his mechanical engineering degree, Jack joined the army and quickly made a name for himself as a skilled driver and mechanic. He was soon recruited by the GI Joe team for his expertise and passion for all things automotive.

Special Skills: Gearhead is a master of all types of vehicles, from tanks and helicopters to motorcycles and speedboats. He can fix any mechanical problem on the fly, and his driving skills are unmatched. He's also an expert in demolitions and can rig explosive devices with precision.

Gear: Gearhead's signature vehicle is a custom-built, heavily armed jeep that he personally designed and assembled. It's equipped with an array of weapons and gadgets, including a missile launcher, smoke screen, and night vision system.

Personality: Gearhead is known for his cool demeanor under pressure and his unwavering dedication to the mission. He's always eager to get behind the wheel and take on any challenge, no matter how dangerous. He's also fiercely loyal to his fellow Joes and will stop at nothing to protect them.

Okay, so not sure if many folks are going to actually take the time to read through those, but I just want to point out that both bots created a character from "a small town in the Midwest."

(Hmm.  Springfield, perhaps?  Kinda crazy either way.)

So, I'm sold on that detail.  Also, Gearhead.  Not bad!  Once again, not great, but not bad, and probably better than Wheels.

Now...time to work out some gaming stats for Gearhead.  Maybe the bots can handle that for me too...

Also, relevant:

Friday, March 31, 2023

Just jotting this down: Musician background for 5E

Cold Slither!  From Joepedia...

Following up on my last post, in which I shared a character with the Musician background...without actually establishing a Musician background to use...

Well, how about this?


Skill Proficiencies:  Performance + your choice of History, Religion, Insight, Perception, Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion

Additional Proficiencies:  Two musical instruments (treat voice as an instrument) OR one musical instrument + [audio equipment or a language of your choice]

Feature:  Always on Tour – You have spent some time traveling and sharing your talent with the world.  You are usually able to negotiate payment of food and lodging in exchange for a performance.  In some areas, and especially among fans of your musical genre, your performance (and often your mere presence) can secure even greater gifts and assistance.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Anthem, G.I. Joe Trooper

Time for me to start putting some actual stats to figures I plan on playing with.  I'll get to make up some characters in the process.  Win win!  Commentary follows.


G.I. Joe Trooper 

Anthony Starr
Code Name:  Anthem
Primary Military Specialty:  Infantry
Secondary Military Specialty:  Psychological Operations
Rank:  E-5
Class:  Soldier 2
Background:  Musician *
STR        DEX        CON       INT         WIS        CHA
12(+1)    14(+2)    12(+1)    16(+3)    13(+1)    17(+3)
HP 14 (2d10+2)    Move 30 ft. (6 units)
Attack Bonuses (with proficiency)  +3 melee, +4 ranged
Skills:  Performance, Persuasion, Computers, Perception, Deception
Tools:  Guitar, Audio Equipment, Land Vehicles, Electronics
Languages: English, Spanish
Saves:  Strength, Constitution
Weapons:  Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons
Armor:  All armor, shields

Always on Tour:  Can usually secure food and lodging in exchange for performing.  Sometimes recognized by fans who are willing to provide more assistance in his efforts.

Infantry Training:  Treats effects of exhaustion as if they were one level lower. **

Specialty:  Communication Interference ***

Anthem spent a few years out of high school as a singer and guitarist for a politically oriented, Washington, DC, based post-hardcore band.  In the midst of questioning the impact he was having on the world, he abruptly decided one day that he needed more structure in his life and enlisted in the Army.

He caught the eye of his commanders by excelling at virtually every test and exercise thrown at him, and when his skill in music and guitar electronics was discovered, Anthem was immediately placed in training under Kenneth Rich (aka Psyche-Out) on a rather mysterious Psy-Ops team residing at his base.  He was recruited to the Joes soon after, taking the moniker of his former band as a code name.

* I don't even really have a specific Musician background design in mind here; just tried to give Anthem an appropriate number of proficiencies and a fitting feature.  Will expand on this soon...?

** I find this very difficult to word appropriately for some reason.

*** Is this a thing?  Not really sure.  Seems like it could be in my Joe universe, though.

Some additional notes...!

The figure for Anthem is a Super7 ReAction Figure, a toy line of which I have grown from enthusiastic observer to have to watch my habits or I'm going to spend too much money on them.

Unfortunately, this is a case where the limited articulation of the retro line hinders it a bit.  I like the look of him holding Psyche-Out's pistol and a radio, but I don't feel as good about him holding the rifle he came with.  Maybe the 5 POA thing will grow on me as I play with them.

Also worth noting...I got this from Entertainment Earth for a really good price as something to tack onto the purchase of a larger item.  EE is apparently known for their commitment to delivering well-packaged items with the toy packaging in great condition...they seem to have trademarked the term Mint Condition Guarantee, for what it's worth.

And I gotta say, based upon this first purchase from them, it looks like they do an excellent job at it.  I almost feel bad that I "took" one in such good condition and opened it up anyway...

All right, until next time...Yo Joe, and enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Soldier Class (5E)

Here's a jotted-down Soldier class, made for jotting down Soldier characters to battle it out as action figures do.

Obviously, it's just a few steps away from being the standard 5E Fighter...while trying to simplify.  In a way.

Found here


HD: d10


Saving throws: Strength and [Dexterity or Constitution]

Armor: All armor, shields

Weapons: Simple weapons, handguns, two-handed small arms, heavy weapons, super heavy weapons

Tools: Land vehicles

Skills:  Two chosen from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, Computers, Demolitions, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival


I'm looking to Dias Ex Machina's Ultramodern5 for guidance here in how to handle the proficiencies of modern warfare.  For one thing, I like the way they break down weapon and vehicle categories.  Also, while I was initially surprised at "all ground vehicles and aircraft" as tool proficiencies for the Grounder, Ultramodern5's Fighter/Soldier class, I eventually realized that it kind of made sense for G.I. Joe-style characters to be able to handle any sort of vehicle thrown at them.  After all, aren't there moments when we just acknowledge, "Oh, yeah, of course Snake Eyes can fly that random plane they found"?  Can't think of any specific moments off the top of my head, but...well, at any rate, I actually did eventually figure this should be dropped back to simply "land vehicles."  But I digress.


Infantry Training:  At 1st level, you treat the effects of exhaustion as one level lower than usual.

Specialty:  You have trained for one specific role above others.  This may be the use of a certain type of weapon or one of a variety of tasks necessary to the successful functioning of an army.  At 2nd level, choose a weapon type (simple, martial, handgun, two-handed small arms, heavy, super heavy) or one combat-related tool and a skill associated with that tool.  You gain those proficiencies.  If you are already proficient, you gain expertise (add twice your proficiency bonus to rolls).

Second Wind, Action Surge:  So, these are basic Fighter features that would seem to easily slot into a warrior type in a miniatures game.  They'll almost certainly be on the Soldier ladder, probably with one of them at 3rd level...but I'm not gonna fence myself in just yet.  Hopefully I'll make a Level 3+ Soldier before long and have to choose.

Found here

More to come soon!  (Note to self: Actually write more soon.)

Friday, February 17, 2023

Elite Athlete Background for 5E

Moving along in knocking out some basic rules that will eventually allow me to play with toy soldiers the way I imagine...

My take on 5E backgrounds, btw, isn't necessarily "by the book"...even though RAW allow for a lot of customization on this front anyway.  The 5E standard seems to be for a background to provide two skill proficiencies, two tool or language proficiencies, a package of starting gear, one bonus feature that enhances roleplay, and tables for generating one or more personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws.

I just want to generate backgrounds that are somewhat balanced with this but don't get bogged down in tiny details.  Now, I also understand that the tables for bonds, flaws, etc. are probably what many people like the most about 5E backgrounds - and they're certainly the part that takes the most work to create - but those are details that can easily be trimmed.  And while I LOVE that rules emphasizing roleplaying are so prominent in the 5E core, I have found that all of these character details are more than I actually feel like processing before playing a character for the first time.  Maybe if my group was a "one campaign for years" crew, I would appreciate taking the time to get to know each character using these tables.  However, we jump around enough that I prefer to just allow some character personality traits to emerge in gameplay.

Anyway, all of that is to's my really simple Elite Athlete background to use when playing with toy soldiers:

Elite Athlete

Sport:  ________

Skill Proficiencies:  Athletics + your choice of Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Insight, Perception, Deception, Intimidation, or Performance (based upon the specific sport and position)

Additional Proficiencies:  Weights, ________ Equipment

Feature:  Legend in This Town - You are well-known in the region(s) in which you regularly played while achieving the greatest successes of your sports career.  In this area (which can vary greatly in size depending upon the nature of the competition and the level of success), you are treated as a high-level celebrity, gaining access to anything available for a price to the general public and to many things unavailable even for money.  This includes entrance to clubs, invitations to major events, and the audience of the region's power brokers if you so desire.  Fans and admirers will often offer to buy you drinks in local establishments.  They will also request a lot of photos, autographs, and moments of your time to share their appreciation for you.


Sunday, February 12, 2023

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Wishing a great day to everyone on this most sacred of American holidays!

All this G.I. Joe talk has 80s nostalgia at a high here at Monstrous Matters, so I'm feeling the need to share this gem of Reagan-era Americana...

They're so bad, they know they're good.  With the perspective of almost 40 years both clouding and illuminating things, it seems hard to overstate just how popular that 1985 Chicago Bears team was. 

And of course, on the Joe front, 1986 brought us this unforgettable member of the team...

Images brazenly stolen from out this awesome resource sometime!  (Uh, and seriously, if this thievery is truly bad form, somebody just let me know and I'll adjust things...)

I never actually owned a Fridge figure. Now that I'm 45 and looking to play with a bunch of my 3 3/4" toys again, I wonder if I should correct that. Not sure what class to make him (maybe something that rewards campaign play by increasing the physical stats of other team members in between battles...?), but it shouldn't be too tough to find or quickly jot down a Professional/Elite Athlete background that could cover Joes like the Fridge, Captain Grid-Iron, and Big Lob. Hmm. Coming soon...

Now, Go Birds!

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Let's talk soldiers + expertise in 5E!

As I progress in what sort of feels like an overarching plan that's been in the works for a while...just needing the proper attention paid to it...I'm trying to make my way through these guys...

On the left is the most basic Cobra infantryman.  On the right is the most basic Cobra infantryman.

...along with some others from my childhood that I grabbed from my parents' house last summer. I'd like to have a nice little stock of figures/fodder to play out battles with, and it makes sense for me to start by fixing up some of my old guys.  With (I'm sure) a bit of a nod to the old OCD, I always took pretty good care of my toys as a kid, so while that means I don't have much in the way of stories about tying them to bottle rockets or YOLOing maximum fun out of them in any way, it also means that picking up a kit to replace their O-rings will go a long way toward setting me up with a nice bunch of gamepieces...

The cure

The happy patient

Old vs. new

As far as gaming goes, I'm looking at really streamlined 5E classes that make an action figure skirmish doable without going crazy from number-and-ability-overload.  Now obviously, for the universe of G.I. Joe, the most important class to have is Ninja.

For now, though...I just want a nice, basic Soldier class that can fit most infantrymen, both Cobra and Joe.  And it seems to me that one of the easiest ways to do that is to just make them experts at fighting, at least with certain weapons.  Like how Rogues can have Expertise in thiefy things, it'd be nice to give Soldiers expertise in fighty things.

I'm realizing, though, that there aren't many who seem to think that doubling a proficiency bonus on an attack roll is balanced.  I guess I figured this would be the case; while 5E's designers did an impressive job taking the unification of combat and skill/tool rolls to the next level with proficiency bonuses (and the elimination of basic attack bonuses and skill ranks), excessive combat bonuses can be a tough sell.  Even if they "make sense," it's often easier to avoid them, just in case.  It's just that...well, it kinda seems like the math for fighting and for using skills should work out about the same at this point.

So why is weapon "expertise" (as in double-proficiency) still seemingly off the table?  Is the bounded accuracy of 5E so precise that a few more points can really break it?  Are there just too many other ways to boost attacks that are unavailable for skills and tools?  Is it forbidden just in case?  And is it time we break this rule and finally grant full, proficiency-bonus-doubling expertise for every sort of proficiency?

Maybe not, but I'll probably try.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources

As the battlefield comes into focus, we see a large group of inexplicably colorful foot soldiers advancing on our heroes' headquarters.  Some of them have jetpacks.  Some have laser guns.  All share a rallying cry:





Whatever the specific pronunciation, it sounds maniacal, I can tell you that much.

So, as I'm hoping to get caught up on my own little Terror Drome this weekend, I find myself spending a fair amount of time thinking about an evil(?) organization that serves as a tribute to the "bad guys with fun names" found in countless IPs...but largely these guys...

I think I'm pretty settled on the naming of my take as the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  Or...of course...BADGER.

Note:  There are actually a lot of organizations of this type in fiction, so if I happen to find out that this name is already taken by something prominent - and please feel free to let me know if I'm overlooking one(!) - I may need to switch it up.

Obviously, the most important characteristics of these groups are their iconic logos.  (Sarcasm?  Not sure...)

So, I headed over to to see if I could find something that might come close to fitting the bill.  Choosing hues that diverge from the big C's red and blue (although I really love those as Cobra's default colors), I worked with this awesome badger icon from Caro Asercion:

Adapted from Caro Asercion's original design, used under the CC BY 3.0 license.

Overall, I do kinda like it, although I think it's a little too...cutesy, I guess.

So how would it look on the genuine Cobra articles?  Let's look at one that is both natively violet and among the cooler looking troops in the organization, the good old Techno-Viper.  Applying my next-level Photoshop Paint and PowerPoint skills...

And adding it to the classic Crimson Guard...

Eh, still probably a little too cutesy.  Not sure though.  Any thoughts on adjusting this to suit its purpose, or the best way to start from scratch and generate what I'm looking for?


Oh yeah!  And speaking of huge evil organizations bent on global domination (HARHARHAR), Hasbro has doubled back in a pretty major way in this whole OGL fiasco, eh?  There's a part of me that thinks this series of events has been a real net positive for D&D players.  We got a gentle (less so if you thought your livelihood was going to be affected, but still lacking in conflict overall) reminder that there are limits to what we should expect from friendly agreements with big companies, AND a bunch of 5E rules officially became usable under a Creative Commons license.

And now we still get to watch as the apparent error by Wizards of the Coast inspires creative reactions from some of the best minds in the game.  So, with one big obligatory caveat (that I do recognize that the worries caused by WotC's bungling of this are still impacting many who make a living in RPGs)...that all actually sounds pretty cool to me!  

Monday, January 23, 2023

So how are your year and your dungeon and your open game license going?

Hello friends!  I hope your 2023 is going well!

What a crazy time to be an avid fan of D&D, eh?  (I'm assuming anyone reading this blog knows a thing or two about the recent saga of Hasbro/WotC's plans/attempts to alter the Open Game License, but if not, no worries...I'd recommend throwing some stuff like "new OGL" and "OGL 1.1" and "OGL debacle" into Google and reading a little bit about the storm that's been raging.  You can also check out this Ars Technica article which summarizes some of the details.)

And now, my long-awaited* response to the fiasco:

So, I get to say this from the privileged perspective of not having my livelihood rely upon the actions of a soulless corporation, but it's difficult to not be entertained by the magnitude of the misstep Hasbro has taken in this whole thing.  I mean...they were on top of the world with D&D.  Big industry leader again after the previous misstep that was Fourth Edition...recognizable and arguably "cool" in modern pop culture...big-$$$ movie on the way.  And then they drop a bomb that alienates a LOT of their biggest customers and supporters.  It's remarkable, really, and while I hate to just jump in the boat with folks who can't wait to say "the damage is done"...there probably is some amount of damage here that simply can't be recovered without some drastic steps (that WotC is unlikely to take).

I still love many aspects of the core D&D experience, Magic: The Gathering is still probably my favorite game ever, and I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about gaming with G.I. Joe Hasbro is almost sure to keep getting some portion of my disposable income.  BUT now we've seen that putting too much faith in the corporate overseers opens us up to having the rug pulled out when we aren't expecting it.  Even if WotC makes everything "right," what happens in another 20-something years when there are different head honchos making decisions, who want to revisit some legalese and see if they can squeeze a few more bucks out of the property?  We, as players, do own the D&D experience, but this was a nice reminder that we don't own Dungeons & Dragons the trademark.

And I guess that's okay.  I do hope that the publishers who have quite understandably depended upon the OGL are able to weather this, and who knows, maybe come out stronger on the other side.  One positive from my perspective: The shift to Creative Commons licensing for some of the core D&D rules seems like an "about time" sort of change, and while I understand that, legally, it may change nothing, it is a nice result of this.  I mean...I think.


So, how's your Dungeon23 going?  To the surprise of no one, I've already fallen behind on more than one occasion, but I do actually have something in the works!  Here's the first day, and then first full week (as laid out in the planner I'm using):

The plan is for this to be a headquarters for a Cobra-style organization that serves as the villain for a fantastical military setting.  I'm thinking maybe the Brigade to Advance the Destruction of Government, Environment, and Resources.  And this is their version of the Terror Drome.  Like I said, I've been thinking a LOT about gaming with G.I. Joe figures, and this is playing into that effort.  Hope to share more soon!  (That "more" will include subsequent weeks of my Dungeon23 work...once I finish some more...)

Until then...well, every time I think of the words "Terror Drome," I'm reminded of this fantastic Funny or Die video, which I first saw at my bachelor party at Con Nooga in 2011.  So well done...

Would love to converse regarding the OGL and your Dungeon23 project if you feel like it!  Talk to y'all soon!

* By my mother

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy 2023!!

Wishing the happiest of new years to all who come across my scribbles and thoughts.  May your goals be realized and...heck, why not have your dreams come true, as well?

Hoping to be a bit more active on here this year.  At the very least, perhaps that will be influenced by the fact that I'm IN on #Dungeon23...

DG baby...

My inspiration looks something like this:

From here...

Best of luck to all you fellow D23ers!  And Happy New Year to all!